Episode of Side-A may have been granted some additional episodes to play with (the series has now been extended out to fifteen episodes in total), but that doesn't change the fact that it's very much crunch time for the girls of Achiga high school as they kick off their semi-final against some ferocious opposition.
While Kuro is up first for Achiga, this episode prefers to keep its focus on two of the other individuals at the table for the first round of the semi-final. Unsurprisingly, up front and centre here is one Teru Miyanaga, although the first hand seems to suggest that her fearsome reputation is overblown. This single hand is, however, the only real respite the other players get to enjoy, as Teru simply uses this time to stare deep into the mahjong-playing souls of her opponents.
From that moment forth, it's a case of seeing Teru racking up victory after victory, with an ever higher score with each hand she unveils to her despairing rivals. It's at this point that Toki Onjouji's own special abilities look ready to come to the fore - the ability to see a single turn into the future, thus allowing herself to influence the game by changing that future. Unfortunately for Onjouji, it seems that even this isn't enough to stop the Teru juggernaut, as she simply shifts her strategy to win by another means. With Teru enjoying the benefits of winning as a dealer and the additional hands that provides, can anyone stop her before she destroys the opposition in the first round of the match? Just as Toki despairs, the plucky Kirame Hanada steps up to the plate to break Teru's flow with the pluckiest of hands. It's only as the episode closes that we return out attentions to Kuro - can she retrieve anything from this most difficult of match-ups?
With such a major match to cover, this is once again an opportunity for Saki to do what it does best - deliver compelling, tense and exciting mahjong action while somehow making its most ridiculous sporting superpowers (seeing the future, looking into the soul of opponents and so on) weave into the narrative to the point of seeming natural... well, almost. Regardless, it's great fun and more enthralling to watch than it probably should be, and after such a slow, slow start to the series I'm suddenly more than happy that we'll be able to enjoy a few additional weeks of Episode of Side-A beyond its initially programmed run.